Family Ties

Rowan Drinkwater

Six months ago, at age 41, I started a new career despite many challenges. I’m a research assistant. Part of my job is to conduct interviews with participants, another is to screen patients waiting to be seen at city clinics. Our participant base is a vulnerable population, opioid users who use and live in Baltimore City. Not the population I set out to work with, but I had a gut feeling I should apply.

Completely unrelated to my work, a gruesome event occurred in my family’s history. In 1914, my great-grandfather traveled to where my great-grandmother had taken refuge (from him), killed her, then himself when my grandfather was three and present in the room. I heard about it when I was 19. My uncle had discovered the event.

I found the news article myself years later. It lists my great-grandfather’s place of work, residence, and the crime scene, so I made a map a couple of weeks ago. When I’m screening at the clinic, I’m a two-minute drive from the crime. For six months, driving to work, I turn right at the pharmacy where he worked. He lived around the corner, a four-minute walk. My office is between these places. The article accuses him of being a “dope fiend” — and I’m working in the same neighborhoods, helping addicts.

Next morning, I called a participant for their appointment, ordered a Lyft, and they were picked up in the neighborhood the article mentions as place the rest of his family lived. But my appointment didn’t live there, just happened to be there. Later, I realized my first place as an adult (age 18) was four minutes away and off the same road where my great-grandparents are buried. Also, my great grandfather and I share the same birth month. So much coincidence.

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